Google Maps now puts its new Local Guides reviews front and center, giving star status to those who blanket the service with their take on where you should hang out.
Local Guides is a rebranding of the City Experts program, which is Google's effort to get more user reviews inside of Google Maps.
It's part of Google's effort to compete with Yelp, which is currently synonymous with local reviews. By getting more of these impressions inside of Google Maps, the company hopes you'll spend more time there—and hopefully click on an ad or two, no doubt—instead of leaping over to Yelp.
The new Local Guides effort works roughly the same as it did under the previous branding. Those who sign up get the Local Guide tag once they hit 50 “high quality” reviews. In some cities Google throws invite-only parties or offers other perks for those most highly involved with Maps reviews.
If you sign up for Local Guides, Google Maps will also start to nudge you about places you’ve visited, encouraging you to give it a star rating and write up your impressions.
Version 9.4 is making its staggered rollout through the Play Store. An APK is also available if you would rather get it now.
The story behind the story: After several buyout offers fell through, Google started competing with Yelp directly. Local Guides is the latest move to make Google Maps more than just a digital imprint of the world, but a full-blown guide for discovering new places. Previous Google Maps updates added Uber integration, shareable directions, and suggestions for nearby restaurants.